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Senior activist alleges, nearly 60% of South Gujarat tribals fail to get land under Forest Rights Act

Manjula Pradeep at the rally venue
By Our Representative
In an important revelation, nearly 60 per cent of the tribals of the Chhotaudepur region in South Gujarat have still not been given land titles they are entitled to under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006. A representation by Manjula Pradeep of Ahmedabad-based NGO Navsarjan Trust, which organized a powerful rally in Chhotaudepur town to press for tribal rights, has said, out 13,381 applications for land under FRA, only 5,498 applications have so far been approved, while the rest "remain to to be cleared."
The representation, handed over to the district collector, Chhotaudepur, demanded "early clearance of the pending applications", insisting, "A high-powered investigation in the poor rate of implementation of the FRA should be ordered to find out the reasons behind the delay." The NGO's revelation comes close on the heels of a Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India report, which said that in Gujarat just about 40 per cent of the applications are pending, and this is worse than 13 other Indian states.
The document shows, as of December-end 2014, Gujarat, an early starter, was able to dispose of just 39.97 per cent, or 75,974 claims, out of 1,90,051 tribals who had applied for land titles. This is against the national average of a whopping 82.60 per cent (17,13,519 out of 39,59,0190). The document, titled “Status report on implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 for the period ending December 31, 2014”, was sent to the Cabinet Secretariat on January 16, 2015.
Navsarjan, in its representation, regretted that despite the fact that many tribals in four talukas of the district -- Chhotaudepur, Kavant, Jetpur-Pavi and Sankheda -- are now farmers, they have no irrigation facilities. "The Narmada Dam is not very far from Chhotaudepur, yet there are no canals to serve the tribal areas. Instead, waters are flowing far away to Kutch, Saurashtra and North Gujarat. Hence, the tribal farmers have to depend heavily on rains for irrigating their fields", the representation said.
Then, it pointed out that the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) is not being implemented properly. "While large number of tribals in the district do have NREGA job cards, they are unable to get any employment. The result is that, large number of them have to migrate to other towns and cities in search of jobs. This has its adverse impact on children's education. According to our estimate, every year 70 per cent of the tribals migrate out", the representation said.
The representation also refers to failure to implement the right to education law in Chhotaudepur, lack of basic facilities like electricity and drinking water water in individual households, refusal to give tribals the housing subsidy in order to build their own houses, refusal of the police to take complaints from the tribals, refusal to make list many tribals in the below poverty list (BPL), lack of fair price shops, and so on. Calling all this "violation of the basic civil rights", the representation demanded fast alleviation of the problems.

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